Sunday, 18 February 2018

Indian Epic - Travels in Kutch, Gujarat - Around Mandvi


Wednesday was spent with fellow Devpur house guests Carey & Gary, exploring the area around the coastal town of Mandvi. Our first call was the Vijay Vilas Palace, a sandy white-domed building set in seven hundred acres of land, the Maharajah's summer retreat during the 1940s and today mostly used as a film set. Although the Rough Guide described the palace as being little visited I think they meant to add by foreigners. It was bursting at the seams with domestic tourists, school trips and local families all of whom were anxious to get their photo taken with the four of us.


I spotted Bollywood goddess Helen in one of the photos hanging in the hallway, one of a number of family pictures lining the walls alongside the rather macabre hunting trophies. The beautiful woman on the left is the Maharani of Kutch.


Oops! Those green mirrored bangles inadvertently slipped on my wrist when we visited Dhordo yesterday. 



You want a selfie with us? We want a photo of you. Always a good trade off.



Although the palace has its own private beach, Ramji thought we'd enjoy the public one more. I think he was right, what's exclusive sunbeds & a posh restaurant compared to camel rides, horses in pom poms and 20p snacks?  








Further up the coast was the estuary, home to the dhow building industry. Each dhow is built entirely by hand, taking around 50 men up to two years to complete. Most of the dhows end up in the Middle East where they're bought by Arab merchants and still used to transport goods. They sell for upwards of half a million pounds.



Having a local to drive us around was hugely advantageous. Ramji chatted to the boat builders who kindly allowed us inside one of their partially built boats.


The trees these planks of wood came from must have been bastard massive!


Look what else we discovered in Mandvi estuary.....


Flamingos! I've never seen them in the wild before. Melanie, I thought of you when we saw them.


Lunch was yet another delicious veg thali in the best named canteen ever, Zorba the Buddha. From 250 to 125 BC Kutch formed part of the Indo-Greek empire and Kutchis are very proud of their Greek heritage. Greek mythology forms part of the school curriculum at the White Eagles School back at Devpur.


We had planned to visit the home of a man who built model ships but he was out of town so Ramji suggested a trip to see some old houses instead.


I can't find any reference to this virtually abandoned village on any of our maps or travel guides so I don't know what the place is called. All I can tell you is that during the late 19th Century it was a prosperous area, home to many wealthy Jain merchants. Over the years they either moved away or died and, due to the size of many Indian families and the country's complicated inheritance laws, the homes were locked up and are now rarely visited. Most are still furnished, packed with their previous owners' precious belongings. Oh, how we wished we could have looked inside.



Virtually abandoned it might have been but I still managed to find people to chat to. This is Saiya, proud mother of seven daughters including Yasmin & Prini. They told me that they liked having no boys in the family, girls are better. As you can see, not all Indian women are tiny, these beautiful women towered over me.












And from old houses to new rooms. Back at the Devpur it was all change, Carey and Gary moved into the Room of 17 Pillars and we moved into Susan's old room, a beautifully bright space with quirky cupboards, Hindu artwork, antique furniture and, like the rest of the house, an amazing selection of Indian-themed literature and glossy travel magazines.


After another sociable and delicious dinner, spent exchanging travel tips with a couple of new arrivals, a couple of women from Delhi who, like Gary & Carey, were filmmakers. Yet again we were in bed by 10pm - our next adventure required a 7am pick-up.

Find all of our Mandvi photos HERE.

74 comments:

  1. Really enjoying reading about your adventures! Love the flamingos too, I've never seen any in the wild either xx

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  2. Oh my, you lucky ducks seeing these gorgeous flamingos in the wild! I would have been utterly transfixed and unmovable! They're beautiful, so thank you for the photographs ❤ oh and the camels, pom pom horse and the cow, you just about made my Sunday xxx

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    1. I bet you'd still be standing there now if you'd been with us! Aren't they amazing? xxx

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  3. Really enjoying reading about your travels Vix. Your photos are amazing.

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  4. Wow that palace is stunning! The public beach was definitely the right choice and oh to see inside those village houses. It is refreshing to hear that Saiya and her daughters are proud to be women, sadly not always what we hear about India. xx

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    1. The palace was lovely, such an unusual design.
      I loved how proud Saiya was of her big female family. xxx

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  5. Just staggeringly beautiful photos. The painted and clothed camels, wonderful.

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  6. So nice to see places off the beaten track - fabulous x

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  7. Such amazing architecture & woodwork! Makes you wonder what it all looked like when new.

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    1. That palace must have looked amazing - put the Disneyland castle to shame! x

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  8. The Vijay Vilas Pa lace looks amazing and how like Helen you look!
    I got to the flamingos and took a detour to visit Melanie's site, which I enjoyed, then back to the vicarious pleasure I'm getting by reading about your travels, you really could write a book, I know it's been said before but it's so interesting, well written and beautifully photographed xxx

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    1. I'm so happy you're enjoying the trip, Sally! xxx

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  9. I can’t stop clapping my hands with glee at this wonderful journey you’re taken us all on. It should be televised xxx

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    1. Maybe I could get the Beeb to sponsor our next visit?! xxx

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  10. Lovely to see different places than your previous travels. The fabrics in the dresses and scarves of the women yu met-devine!

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  11. Thank you so much for sharing your travels with us! You should write a book of your adventures through the years.

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    1. I love sharing, it makes the trip last longer! xxx

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  12. I am trying not to comment on every post but I can't help it. Flamingos! So graceful. And the dhow-building – your sailor father would've appreciated that, I'll bet.

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  13. Oh those three doors.....I want them.
    How sad the village is abandoned...it looks beautiful.
    Hugs-x-

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  14. Love the photo of the three older women-I spot a granny handbag!

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    1. They do love their granny handbags in India - made from goat or water buffalo leather! x

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  15. Pink flamingos! It's on my bucket list to see them in the wild...you lucky lady :)

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    1. I never expected to see any flamingos, it was a lovely surprise. x

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  16. I'm finally getting a chance to come see your posts!! I've got my coffee and an omelette and I'm ready to get caught up!

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    1. I hope it's a masala omelette - eggs Indian style! xxx

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  17. I saw some flamingos at Slimbridge wetland centre, that probably doesn't count?
    Another fine selection of photos, full of fascinating things - I would have loved to see inside the boat building, and meet the tall Indian ladies! xx

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    1. I bet Slimbridge beats Dudley Zoo in the early 70s- the only place I've ever seen them! xxx

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  18. That palace looks stunning! Obviously, the public beach was the perfect choice. Who can resist horses in pom poms? Flamingoes always make me think of Melanie too! I wonder what that abandoned village must have been looked like in its heyday. The carvings are absolutely beautiful. xxx

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    1. I couldn't get over the intricacies and colour of those carvings, the village muct have been positively psychedelic back in the day. xxx

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  19. I've seen India on t v but your beautiful photos & description of your recent visit are far more captivating x

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    1. Thanks so much, Flis. The trouble with those documentaries is that they're often all about the celebrity visiting India rather than the country and its people. xxx

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  20. That abandoned village is fascinating, i wpuld love tp go in the houses too. The public beach with henna'd camels looks like my kind of beach!

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    1. The beach was fab - I wouldn't want to take me clothes off and sunbathe there though, it was bad enough being fully dressed and having to pose for a zillion selfies! xxx

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  21. Beautiful pictures! I was saddened by the abandoned state of the pretty village. Hopefully one day soon the empty houses will have new inhabitants. Thank you for showing us faithful blog readers pics of your trips.

    Hah! Very nice green bangles! I'm glad they slipped into your wrist!!

    Happy thrifting ;)

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    1. I do hope a family member is able to make a claim on one of those houses, I've seen them falling into dereliction in Goa as well. Such a waste.
      You know me, i can't walk away from a bangle! xxx

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  22. It looks like they love bright colors...Coffee is on

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  23. My favourite photo is the horse covered in all that colour!! Spectacular photos and OMG everything you went and saw and did looks amazing!! Again thanks.

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    1. Thanks, Sue! The pom pom horse was amazing! xxx

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  24. More wonderful pictures! Yes, girls ARE better! I love the decorated horse and camels.

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  25. I would have loved to take a peek inside those abandoned homes too! Such a shame that they have been left to the elements. I am so enjoying your photos from this trip; so many unusual and beautiful things to see.

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    1. Can you imagine the riches behind those locked doors? xxx

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  26. Kissing flamingos! Snuggling camels! How sweet is that!!!
    Love all the photos, of animals, people and buildings. What a wonderful trip and travelogue!

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    1. Those flamingos kissed just for us, how thoughtful was that?! xxx

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  27. That palace is amazing! Is the architectural style typically Indian, or is it a hybrid style? Something about the overall shape reminds me of big country houses here in the UK, though the decorative aspects are Indian. I always picture big Indian houses as less blocky, more airy.

    That abandoned village is lovely. Imagine all those lovely homes slowly crumbling away... such a shame.

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    1. Apparently it's a mix of Rajput, Gujarati and Bengali so it's pretty unusual as Indian buildings go. It's certainly very distinctive and, you're right, a lot more blocky than usual. You'd have loved the interior, it's piled high with European Art Deco furniture but sadly very shabby and threadbare . xxx

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  28. ohhh, those buildings look so Awesome, I love all those carved details, the doors, the galleries, the sculptures. And flamingos!
    Love your posts!
    besos

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    1. I'm so glad you're enjoying my Gujarat posts, I did get a bit carried away with my camera! xxx

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  29. What a stunning palace. It looked immaculate. All those gorgeous houses too, just mouldering away. I would move there in a heartbeat, although I bet it is quite spooky at night time. What a difference from the UK. They would have been robbed, graffitied and torched by now. The horse is absolutely gorgeous. Xx

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    1. That's exactly what we thought. Those houses would have been stripped of everything and left in ruins if they were in the UK.
      I loved the horse's outfit, too! xxx

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  30. that palace is gorgeous! thanks for showing the photo of the indian high society - so stylish!
    the dhow shipyard is very interesting, never thought this kind of boats still get made and sold! i´m sure they are the best vessels for the arabian sea..... i always thought that the old greece had a connection to india - just from looking at the art and reading the tales.
    wonderful post - thanx!!
    xxxxx

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    1. Thanks, Beate. We saw those dhows on a BBC documentary a week before we went to India, Jon was so excited to see them for real! xxx

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  31. Horses in Pom-Poms and Wonderful Deserted Old Towns with the most Amazing Architecture! I loved the Camel's facial decorations. Thanks for Sharing your Adventures!

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  32. I can't tell you how much I'm enjoying your photographs. I usually don't read holiday/ travel blogs but yours are so engaging, thanks.

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    1. Thank you so much, I'm glad you're enjoying the photo overload. xxx

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  33. The palace is astonishing and looks very well cared for. It sounds like Ramji had got the measure of you two by suggesting the public beach. Are the camels decorated with henna? I wonder how they get them to stay still long enough to be decorated. I'm loving all your wonderful candid photos of the locals. xxx

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    1. The Maharajah and Maharani are still alive and well, it does seem a shame that they don't use that gorgeous palace, I know I would.
      Those hennaed camels are incredible, aren't they? They seemed a lot more docile thn the ones in North Africa. xxx

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  34. Wonderful photos and the wild life is brilliant! I love the flamingos; I've seen them in the South of France where they were pinker - it's the shrimp you know...loved the camel and the horse with pom poms was surreal but beautiful.

    I wish you could have looked inside those wonderful houses, too!
    xxxx

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    1. I wondered if it was diet that determined the colour of flamingos. I dread to think what they were eating in Mandvi, the water looked very murky. xxx

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  35. another amazing post, love the photos. What camera do you use?
    amanda in wales

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    1. Hi Amanda! Thank you. We use a Sony Cybershot HX60. It's really easy to use and has a brilliant 30x zoom function. xxx

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  36. That horse stole my heart, what a beauty! and I love what he is wearing- I'm not sure is there a term for it, but I love all those colourful decorations on him.

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    1. That horse was a beauty - he piercing blue eyes which took me aback! xxx

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Love from Vix
xxx